Friday, October 20, 2023

Highlander 4x21 - Judgment Day


Kind of a dramatic name here. I kinda doubt this episode is gonna be worth such a hyperbolic title, but we'll see. This is the first half of the season finale on the DVD sets officially, while in the original broadcast airing it was the sole season finale and the second half was held over to S5 to leave us on a cliffhanger.

We start with Joe Dawson playing the blues when he gets a phone call.

This isn't just any phone call. It's a call from the Watchers, letting him know that dead.

My God! Methos is the main character?

Joe flies to Paris and goes to the barge to do his final report. That's when he sees Duncan in the distance, jogging over. Wait...Duncan isn't dead?

Waaaaait... why didn't Joe just call him? These people have cell phones. At least call and see if he's actually dead before flying over?

And the Watchers lying to him by telling him this... didn't they realize Duncan might call him on the phone somewhere in the time it took for him to get to Paris?

Why not just call him in for a meeting?

Nope, instead, a bunch of Watcher hooligans attack Joe and kidnap him. These guys look like John Wick fodder enemies.

I mean there had to be a better way to do this besides "tell him his friend died, then ambush him with clubs"

Duncan sees the kidnapping and gives chase!

Damn, this car is swerving all over the place while he hangs onto it.

Duncan falls off and they get away. He got their license plate at least, so they're toast. I'd rather have the police after me than Duncan Macleod if we're being honest here.

Methos visits Duncan and nearly gets lopped!

Duncan asks Methos to help find Joe. Methos doesn't really know Joe and doesn't want to take risks, so he balks at it. Eventually Duncan gets through to him that he owes Joe. The investigation begins.

Elsewhere, Joe is put in the creepiest holding cell I've ever seen. Tiny furniture, bizarre murals, and this for-kids aesthetic combine to create a true hellscape.

They have a secret meeting at the park where they both pretend to be talking to themselves. Anyone could be a Watcher. And they're all controlled by Lawrence Fishburne and his pigeons.

Regardless, Methos heard through the grapevine that Joe is being tried for treason, and will be sentenced to DEATH. But where?

Elsewhere, at Watcher HQ...

Joe is being tried by a tribunal led by his old friend Jack.

Joe is charged with being friends with immortals, falsifying documents, and betraying the Watcher oath to not interfere. the past 3 years they've lost 80 agents, compared to the previous half-century where they lost 2.

It's been exactly 3 years since Joe started being friends with Duncan and exposed the Watchers. So there must be a correlation!

"This is a farce! This judge goes home and his wife and daughter both hate me too!"

"You leave them out of this! Don't make me issue a gag order!"




Duncan and Methos both arrive at the HQ. The cool thing is that neither of them actually knew Joe was here, they're just following their own leads, and both got here at the same time.

"Adam Pierson" tries driving up and trying to get access to the building.

Guard: "Sorry SIR. You're not on the list, SIR."

"If I lose Methos because of you, that's on YOUR head."


Duncan sneaks into the building while Methos has them distracted, and follows the sound of Joe's bellowing.

Duncan waltzes into the proceedings and tells them a few key things: Joe didn't seek him out, he sought Joe out. Horton was killing immortals, and Joe had to tell Duncan that the rest of the Watchers weren't like that. They might have prevented a war between the two sides by teaming up to deal with Horton.

"Yeah? Well that's just the tip of the iceberg! Here are another 40 examples of Joe giving you classified info!"

"Ahhhh...yes, you see, we have been tapping his phone for some time! Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational battle station!"


We get a flashback to the first episode of Season 2, where they met for the first time.

Actually, watching "The Hunters" and "The Watchers" (S1E22 and S2E1) before watching this episode would be a very good idea.

These flashbacks are so nostalgic that one might end up going back and watching them after this regardless.

The vile Horton, instigator of a lot of this. Him breaking his oath and killing immortals is what the Watchers should be getting mad about, not Joe working with an immortal to take him down.

We get a flashback to Simon Killian locking Duncan up. Joe of course rescued him from this situation, another felony!

"What do you have to say for yourself, you criminal? Oh, and I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive!"

Duncan then PULLS A GUN on everyone. This seems like a really bad idea. It's the only way to get them to shut up and listen. Their new defense is that Joe's fraternizing with Duncan saved lives. And yeah, it certainly did save a lot of lives. That isn't gonna do much for them when the judges think 80 lives were lost because of them though.

Also, Joe FALSIFIED DOCUMENTS~! by writing in the official record that Duncan had an old grudge against Thorne, when in fact he fought that guy to avenge Joe's friend who had been murdered.

I think they've got him there.

Another flashback. Richie sighting! We haven't seen his black ass in ages!

He'll be back in S5. Duncan's gonna have a few friendships to mend at the beginning of that season, so narratively it's off to a better start than the other seasons already.

More flashbacks! Duncan fighting Ward the vampire, after Joe helped him solve the case and find the guy.

Elsewhere, this mystery immortal is ambushing and stabbing Watchers. Not sure how he knows who they are and where to find them, but he's quite adept at it. So this guy has been killing all those Watchers?

Adam Pierson shows up with evidence to present on Joe's behalf. Now I know what we're all thinking, but it is not a Dick In A Box.

He presents them with the journal of one of Methos' Watchers...which have been him all along it seems, so he wrote the book himself. It's a book of observations and musings about how great Methos is. Duncan kinda rolls his eyes at all of this.

"Adam" goes on to talk about how much could be learned if they would allow the Watchers to befriend immortals. Think of all the knowledge that wouldn't be lost! Learn. LEARN!

"Are you done, son? TAKE THIS MAN AWAY! BALIFF!"


Now Duncan is pissed because they just won't even hear anything to the contrary. Their minds are made up. He demands that Joe get a jury of his peers.

"Oh, he will get a jury of his peers... if you agree to die next to him."

This is going a bit far, don't we think?

They wheel in the jury...and it's a bunch of Watcher big-wigs from around the world. This...seems quite serious now. The good news is that there's a very young woman on the jury and we have Duncan Macleod, so statistically we have good odds.

He tells them that if it weren't for them, Horton would still be killing. Kalas would have exposed both of them to the world. Kalas found out about them on his own, that had nothing to do with Joe!

But wait! Jack gets the news that his son was murdered. That was the kid who got killed by that unknown immortal earlier. Now this guy is enraged, and declares that the case is over. HIS SON'S DEATH IS ON JOE'S HANDS.

Joe feels bad for him, but you can also see him realize in real-time that his case is absolutely f'd.

Time for the jury to make their decision, since the trial has been cut short.

The lady stands up and says they don't need time to deliberate, they're already unanimously saying "guilty"

Welp. The "have a woman on the jury and have Duncan make eye contact with her" strategy totally failed.

Duncan beats up their captors so they can escape. Except Joe...doesn't want to escape.

That's right, Joe is going to stay, not run from his problems.

This is the same face Duncan makes in Endgame when he has his final showdown with Connor. And it's pretty much the same scene in a way too.

He's going to face the music. He's been around a while already. All he asks is that Duncan look out for himself.

Duncan is apoplectic that Joe stayed and that he's might be gone forever.

Methos: "You should probably get away from here. New Zealand is very nice this time of year."

Joe arrives at the execution site, where Gafgarion is lurking with a bunch of John Wick goons.

Joe takes in the fresh spring air and marvels at it all. It's going to be a nice summer, he says.

He says a quick prayer and that's it, time to get offed.

Joe's resigned to his fate and this is all kind of difficult to watch. Episode actually makes you realize how much you value this guy and want him around.

My God, they're killing me here. This must have been brutal for viewers when it first aired. Looked like he was really going to go.

But wait! The mystery immortal shows up and annihilates most of the Watchers on-site with some kind of high-powered machine gun.

I mean he just absolutely annihilates them. certainly gonna reflect poorly on Duncan, who is held responsible for all the Watcher deaths!

He smugly looks at his accomplishment and takes off. This guy is Jacob Galati, a fairly formidable immortal and another guy you really don't want after you.

Perhaps still wanting to save Joe, Duncan arrives at the site, only to find that...

...the pencilneck bureaucrat gate guard has been murdered!

"I'LL NEED TO SEE SOME ID, SIR" emits from his unmoving mouth before he hisses and disappears into the underworld.

Duncan finds the massacre. Great, now it's gonna be even easier to blame him.

And he finds his worst fear, Joe has been shot. Looks like it narrowly missed the heart and wasn't the worst place to catch one.

Next episode is either the last of S4 or the first of S5, depending on how you're counting. On TV airing they held over the follow-up for the next season. On the DVD sets the two episodes are together. I think this works really well on TV as a cliffhanger, but also combining the two eps makes for a pretty solid movie. I don't remember ever particularly liking this two-parter (generally I thought it was the worst two-parter in the show). Now, though? Older and wiser I think it's a very good one-two punch of episodes and one of S4's peaks. It's a good examination of the friendship between Duncan and Joe and the underlying problems with it that haven't really been addressed before now. Namely that they were breaking the rules the entire time.


Other Highlander Posts


  1. I like this episode a lot, but the writers left out one vital piece of evidence - Charlie. Joe interfered, and Charlie got murdered. That blood is totally on Joe’s hand. But if the writers used that, Joe doesn’t look so good. Duncan’s argument lacks the strength I suspect the writers wanted it to have. Introduce Charlie’s death and the Watchers have a much stronger point.

    This is too bad because the writers were usually pretty tight when it came to moral arguments. They really did a good job of nailing difficulties in moral positions. But overall I liked this arc. It showed that not only immortals were trapped by a past they refused to move on from.

    1. Good point. Leaving Charlie out was totally the writers throwing Joe a life raft. TBH the Watchers felt like they had a stronger point than Duncan/Methos did, but we're supposed to be cheering those guys.

      I think it would be interesting to do an "arc rewatch" of The Hunters, The Watchers, Unholy Alliance, Counterfeit, and this two-fer. As an 8 episode arc by itself it might be intriguing. I might well do that before One Minute to Midnight.